NaBloPoMo November 2013 Recap

NaBloPoMo November

So I was going to write a recap about my experience completing NaBloPoMo, but instead I ended up having an impromptu family game night with the big kids. So that was better. I will do some bullet points about my thoughts instead.

  • I liked writing, which I’ve always known. It was helpful to have a “I want to post every day for this month” as motivation.
  • I will continue to blog  regularly, but not daily. I think I am going to stick with 3 times per week. I’m going to create a “Posting Schedule.”
  •  I recognize that some of my posts this month utterly SUCKED. Those were the ones that I wrote in bed, on my phone after 11pm.
  • I’m going to include more photos. I like seeing those on other people’s posts, so I should include them too.

Thanks for following along!

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Christmas Gift List

I am already in full “stress about everything I have to do for Christmas” mode and it is only the day after Thanksgiving. So naturally I wasted spent some time today creating a perfectly formatted list to help with my Christmas shopping and planning. I am so happy with my list. Look how pretty it is:

Macy

Santa Gift:

Pjs:

Want

Need

Wear

Read

 

Owen

Santa Gift:

Pjs:

Want

Need

Wear

Read

 

Easton

Santa Gift:

Pjs:

Want

Need

Wear

Read

 

Gemma

Santa Gift:

Pjs:

Want

Need

Wear

Read

 

**edited: bummed the formatting doesn’t look right here on wordpress. Trust me, it is a really cool looking tables within a table that I did in Word. I love to make tables within table in Word.**

I wanted to start a new tradition to help simplify the gifts we get for the kids. I had heard years ago about buying gifts that fit in the category of something they WANT, something they NEED, something to WEAR, and something to READ. I liked that idea and  decided to add 2: the gift from Santa and our traditional new pajamas that they get to open on Christmas Eve.

I ran the idea past Scott and he was fine with it. Not too jazzed on the READ, one, but what can I say… I guess I know where Owen gets it. Then I tried to get him to help me fill in some ideas. (Sigh) Not as easy as it would seem. I wasn’t even worried about the WEAR and READ boxes, because I those ones are easy for me to knock out while at the mall.

We did manage to come up with a decent plan. The funniest thing is that Macy is incredibly hard to buy for and Owen is remarkably easy. Such a testament to their personalities. Macy is simple and deliberate and doesn’t like wasteful things and really does not care about clothes. On the other hand, Owen is happy-go-lucky and wants EVERYTHING! Literally, the boy would be happy with

ANY.NEW.THING. A ball? “Cool, Let’s go play!” Legos? “Nice, can we build it now?” Electronics? “Yes please!” And he is always needing new gear for baseball. This year he needs a new batting helmet and glove. He is just easy to buy for. Easton and Gemma are pretty easy also. The hardest thing with them is not getting things with a lot of parts or that take up a lot of space or that they will only play with for a limited time. Which seems kind of limiting, but really isn’t if I put some careful thought into it.

So after I finalize my plan for what we are going to get the kids, I have to come up with MORE ideas for what my parents can get for the kids. And I already gave my grandma a list for what she can buy. I know we are so lucky, too lucky, in fact. I love that we have people who love my kids enough to buy them gifts, I just wish they didn’t have to buy “STUFF.” Consumerism at its best, for sure.

Christmas Tree with Lots of Presents Picture 2...

Christmas Tree with Lots of Presents Picture 2 of 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankful

I suppose this seems like an obligatory post fot Thanksgiving, but I do want to take a moment to record those things that I am thankful for.

My family. We have been through so much this year and have survived.
Health- mine and my family’s.
Scott. He is my rock.
Macy. I’m thankful for her quirkiness and independence and love of music.
Owen. I’m thankful for his sense of humor, fun-loving spirit, and his  many athletic talents.
Easton. I’m thankful for his sweet moments because lately there hasn’t been as many of them! Four is a tough age, but he is worth the investment of our time and patience. Great things are on the horizon with this boy!
Gemma. I am so thankful for my last baby. That she is still breastfeeding. That she is so busy and determined and smart. I can’t wait to see what kind of person she will become.
My parents. As much as they drive me crazy, I am so thankful they are such a big part of our lives.
My brother. I don’t see him as much as I would like, but when I do, I am enjoying getting to know him all over again. I am very proud to witness the wonderful, loving man he has become.
Our home. Although it is still in limbo if we will be able to save our home, I am thankful for this place to raise our family.

Thoughts on Photography

the family 2013

For the past 4 years I have hired a photographer to take family pictures of us. I couldn’t hire the same photographer again this year because she is more than we can now afford, so I found someone more affordable. The lesson I have learned this year is quite simple: You get what you pay for.

It is not that these picture are horrible, they are just OK. But after years of wonderful portraits, these are disappointing. Some are not very good in a technical sense (ie: parts out of focus, people/objects in the background, wrong meter setting, etc.).

This new photographer bragged that she gives us all the unedited photos, in addition to the 50 she edits. I have learned the hard way that this is not necessarily a good thing. It has taken me hours to go through them. Some are so bad, she should have been embarrassed to include them– I would have been embarrassed, had I been the photographer.

Most of the ones she edited are ones that I would have picked. But then she went a little crazy in Photoshop. Step away from the fake sun rays, lady. And white teeth are nice, but Ross-white is too white (Friends reference). And, I love my kids’ blue eyes the way they are; it is not necessary to turn them into cyborgs.

Artistry cannot be taught. She missed some great shots during our shoot. Un-posed, candid, wonderful shots that I tried to call her attention to, but that she didn’t “see” or was too late to capture it after I said something.

So I have spent hours going through all the photos (over 900) and trying to edit the ones I like better. I really wish I was better at Photoshop (I only have Photoshop Elements), but I am doing the best I can.

I now have to decide if I am going to continue to look for another photographer for next year, or if I should just go with the more expensive one who I love and trust. Maybe I can try and use her every other year.

The kids 2013    Gemma portrait

 

(The three pictures I included in this post are the VERY best of the bunch. I am happy with these three. With my previous photographer I had 20 that I loved and was happy with.)

My Thyroid Cancer Journey, part 2

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papill...

Micrograph showing that the papillae in papillary thyroid carcinoma are composed of cuboidal cells. H&E stain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To continue from yesterday’s post, I had my thyroid out on March 7, 2007 because of papillary thyroid cancer that was confirmed the month prior.

March 25, 2007: Radioactive Iodine treatment day. Two days earlier I sent Scott and the kids away in the motor home to start vacation and to leave me alone, as the radioactive iodine treatment could make me be dangerous to the kids and their developing thyroids. The taking of the pill itself was no big deal, just weird. The pill comes in this big, iron box. The tech opens the bottle, careful not to touch the pill, and drops it in my hand and then the tech scurries behind protective glass and watches me swallow the pill. Then I’m sent on my merry way. I have to take precautions with my “waste”: flush twice, use only one set of dishes/cups that can be disposed of later, bedding has to be bagged for 2 weeks before washing, avoid close contact with people for 5 days. My only side effect was my salivary glands got very swollen and sore. It wasn’t horrible. I missed my family very, very much, so I spent a good amount of time in a depressive sleep.

April-September 2007: This was a very trying time for me as I adjusted to life without a thyroid trying to get my dose of thyroid medication right for me. I was so tired and so depressed all the time. Being hypothyroid was no joke. Thyroid medicine takes awhile to build up in your system… weeks, in fact, up to 6 weeks. My doctor was tired of hearing from me. I did blood tests every 3-4 weeks and my TSH just wouldn’t come down into the normal range. At one point, after months of being on a lot of thyroid medicine, my blood TSH was 137!! (The normal range is 2-12. My normal range for cancer suppression is under 2. And when I doing tests that call for my levels to be elevated, they just want them to be above 50.) So finally, after being on mega–doses of generic brand medicine, my doctor suggested I try name-brand Synthroid. A month after I switched, I started to feel normal again. I was told to only take name brand from now on.

September 2007 and March 2008: I have a nuclear thyroid scans to check if any cancer can be detected. It comes back negative.

August 2008: We have moved back to California and I am newly pregnant with my third baby. Early pregnancy sends my thyroid levels crazy. I feel horribly hypothyroid and none of my new doctors listen to me (they write it off as just normal early pregnancy symptoms) until my blood tests come back at 12.9. High TSH in early pregnancy can cause miscarriage. They pay attention now. I get a new endocrinologist who I like a trust a lot. She doesn’t really like that as a new post-cancer patient she can’t run her own tests on me because of my pregnancy, but she makes due and actually calls my Colorado doctor to get some information clarified. I love that she did that, especially considering how difficult my Colorado doctor was to get time with.

Februrary 2009:  Easton is born. After the initial pregnancy wonky-ness, my thyroid gives me no trouble.

Summer 2009: My blood levels start to concern my endocrinologist because the one they use as a thyroid cancer marker has been steadily rising. Because I am breastfeeding, I cannot do any of the nuclear tests. She has me do a CT scan instead. My thyroid area looks fine, but the CT scan picks up an abnormal sized thymus (some random gland that usually atrophies in adults). It would be exceedingly rare for it to be anything, but my doctor is concerned because it is such an odd thing to be enlarged. It ends up being nothing but causing a lot of drama and stress for me.

March 2010: I am finished breastfeeding and my doctor really wants me to do another Radioactive Iodine treatment. She is just concerned that my levels have continued to rise. She really wants to do a treatment to “knock it down” and keep me at a better baseline.

June 2010: Second Radioactive Iodine treatment. This time, because I have a baby, my doctor admits me to the hospital for three days so I don’t risk hurting his thyroid. After the 3 days in the hospital, I stay another 5 days at my parents house. That was a lonely time too.

August 2010: My levels did not drop at all and my doctor does not know why. She orders an MRI. It is negative. She is confident that I don’t have “bulk disease” (aka tumors) and that it is probably just my baseline. They can never get 100% of the thyroid removed from surgery and the RAI is supposed to kill any remaining thyroid. The tests they use as a “cancer marker” (thyroglobulin) is actually just testing how much thyroid you have at all, because the unique thing about thyroid cancer is that is typically only can regrow on thyroid tissue. And since some parts of your thyroid can regenerate, they like to use the RAI to zap it back down. Unfortunately, too many RAI treatments increase your risk for other cancers. After this last treatment got no results, I made the decision to not do another RAI unless there is more evidence that the cancer is back, not just microscopic thyroid tissue.

2011:  Everything is stable thyroid-wise. Just blood tests are done and 6 month doctor visits.

February – October 2012: Pregnancy number 4. Thyroid is completely normal this pregnancy. No trouble at all.

December 2012: At my regular endocrinologist appointment, she notices (via ultrasound) that one of my lymph nodes seems enlarged. This is the first time that she tells me that because of my age at diagnosis, she expects that my thyroid cancer will return at least once more in the span of my life. She also said the most likely way that will happen will be through it spreading to my lymph nodes. I do a bunch more tests (more ultrasounds and an MRI). She consults with Ear Nose and Throat doctor. It definitely is enlarged, but not alarmingly so. We are going to wait and watch. If it continues to grow, I will have a complicated surgery to remove the entire chain of lymph nodes. I REALLY do not want this.

Current: As of now, everything remains stable with my blood levels and lymph node size. I am very grateful for that. The best thing about thyroid cancer is how slow growing it is. So that is in my favor. I just hate how just when I forget that I ever had thyroid cancer, I get news that brings me back to reality. Will this kill me? Probably not. I see my friend who has a horrible cancer and what she has been through, and I consider myself so very lucky. But I, of course, wish that I didn’t have this either.

 

My Thyroid Cancer Journey, part 1

Thyroid

Thyroid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t believe it is almost 7 years since my diagnosis and surgery. Because of the relatively easy treatment for thyroid cancer it is sometimes easy to forget I had it at all. I’m still checked every 3-6 months. I don’t think about it much, until my doctor tells me I need to have additional tests…. that’s happened twice in 6.75 years. I’m currently in a holding pattern because I don’t want to do any additional testing and everything is staying stable.

 

Here is my Thyroid Cancer Journey:

 

April 2006: see first endocrinologist because I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and before that had been on thyroid medicine for low thyroid for years and my doctor friend suggested I svee a “Thyroid Doc” at least once. The doctor seems nice and competent. I get my first ever neck ultrasound. He says I have a few nodules on my thyroid, one is bigger than the rest, but nothing to be concerned about and sends me on my way. (In hind sight, I really wish he would have been more concerned about it.)
October 2006: we just moved to Colorado (which if I would have known it was a possibility that I had cancer, would have NEVER happened!). After moving into our new house I notice that I feel a weird pressure on my throat when I’m laying down. It feels just slightly heavy and makes me feel like I need to clear my throat. To this day I do not know why I took this so seriously,  but I just knew this was a different feeling for me. After 3 nights of feeling this, I pick a random primary care doctor out of my HMO booklet and hope I get a good one. The weirs pressure feeling either goes away or I got too used to it to notice after another week. I still decide I should see a doctor.
November 2006: I see my new doctor this one and only time. She was fantastic. She listened to me and said that my thyroid felt slightly enlarged,  but nothing she would have normally been concerned about. However,  since it felt different to me, she ordered an ultrasound. She told me how important it is for women to listen to their bodies and I am a prime example of that. (A couple months later I got a letter that she left the practice to start her own rural practice. I hope she did well.)
December 2006: have my second neck ultrasound.
January 2007: my doctor called to tell me the results came back abnormal and she referred me to an endocrinologist.
I pick an endocrinologist out of my HMO book and hope I get lucky again. There are none near me and it is a 45 minute drive to his office.
February 2007: I meet the endocrinologist and find him competent and trust worthy. He schedules a fine needle biopsy for the next week.
The fine needle biopsy hurt way more than he told me it would. It felt like the needle would go through my throat. He  also failed to tell me till he was doing it that he needed to jiggle the needle (while in my neck!) to ensure he got a good sample and that he needed to do it in multiple spots, multiple times.
Late February 2007: the results of the biopsy come back as positive for papillary thyroid cancer. I need to have my entire thyroid removed as soon as possible.  He refers me to his friend, a general surgeon. (The first doctor I don’t have to pick out of a book!)
March 7, 2007: surgery day. Everything went well. He took out my thyroid and about 20 surrounding lymph nodes. The surgery wasn’t too bad. The most unexpected problem I had was that the breathing tube triggered my latent asthma, so I had some trouble breathing in recovery.
Pathology came back later that month as papillary thyroid cancer tumors on both sides of the thyroid and in 7 of the 20 lymph nodes that were taken out. It was staged at Stage 2.

 

Up Next: my experience with radioactive iodine treatments!

 

Quick Updates

1. The mastitis is finally healing. I am still amazed at how such a small thing caused so much pain & ill feelings. It made me feel so much more exhausted than usual, and that’s saying a lot because I normally always feel tired. The pain and tenderness last a good 6 days. But thankfully I feel 100% better. I have 2 days of antibiotics left. The best news is that Gemma is still nursing, with no signs of stopping anytime soon!

2. My to do lists are not any closer to being done. Getting sick did not help me in the motivation department.

3. My weight loss goals are probably not going to be met by the new year. But they were a little ambitious to begin with. I will be more than satisfied if I lose half of my original goal.

That is it for now. I need some sleep!